Marks & Spencer sale of Red Grouse:The Health Effects of low level Exposure to Lead

Mindful of the huge controversy which began last week when Marks and Spencer decided to sell red grouse to the public, obtained the company Chairman tells us from a sustainable source i.e., the North Yorkshire Moors. We have decided in the public interest to republish an article detailing the adverse health effects on public health caused by exposure to low level amount of lead. We should like to highlight our second concern, the North Yorkshire Moors is one of the most notorious regions in the northern uplands of England for the persecution of protected birds of prey. It is no coincidence both the hen harrier and peregrine falcon are conspicuous throughout the north Yorkshire moorlands because of their total absence following decades of persecution. The claim by Marks and Spence that the grouse they are selling are obtained from a sustainable source may be in breach of the Trades Description legislation, especially when we take into consideration the number of protected raptors that have been sacrificed on the Yorkshire moors in support of grouse shooting.


Iconic Red Grouse: Protected Raptors are being killed to support Red Grouse shooting. Certainly the Red Grouse being sold by Marks & Spencer in not sustainable because of this illegal activity.

We would inform our readers that lead and water do not mix, especially when lead pipes are used to supply water into the domestic property for drinking. All Water Utility companies in the UK have now been required to replace their lead pipes with copper in the interests of public health. However, there remains a single English water company, United Utilities, who still permits their tenant shooters and gamekeepers to use of lead shot for game hunting throughout their upland water catchments.


Dead Peregrine

Concerned conservationist in America have discovered when an animal is shot using a lead cartridge, fragments of lead contaminate the flesh of the dead animal. In theory, any person who consumes red grouse which have been shot without removing the lead splinters may be at risk.

For researchers who operate at the intersection of basic biology and toxicology, following the data where they take you—as any good scientist would—carries the risk that you will be publicly attacked as a crank, charged with scientific misconduct, or removed from a government scientific review panel. Such a fate may seem unthinkable to those involved in primary research, but it has increasingly become the norm for toxicologists and environmental investigators. If you find evidence that a compound (lead) is worth billions of dollars to its manufacturer poses a public health risk, you will almost certainly find yourself in the middle of a contentious battle that has little to do with scientific truth.
five dead buzzards
5 Dead Buzzards

A Battle-Tested Veteran in the Fight for Scientific Integrity

Herbert Needleman is no stranger to the smear tactics of industry. Needleman, a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, began to document the health effects of low lead exposure in the early 1970s. His groundbreaking work—which industry fought tooth and nail—clearly demonstrated lead’s toxic effects on children, providing critical evidence for regulations to eliminate lead from gasoline and interior paints, and to lower the blood lead standard for children.

Concerned that blood lead levels in an older child would not reflect early exposures, Needleman developed a method to evaluate discarded baby teeth (both teeth and bone accumulate lead) for a more accurate history of past lead exposure. He found that inner-city children had higher lead levels than children living in the suburbs, even though none of the children showed signs of lead poisoning. When Needleman presented his findings at a 1972 meeting of lead researchers, he was surprised by the venomous nature of attacks by industry scientists leveled at any researcher who dared present evidence that lead could cause harm at low doses. Needleman continued his work and found that children with elevated tooth lead levels scored lower on a suite of cognitive tests measuring IQ, speech, and language skills. He published his results in a 1979 landmark study showing that early childhood exposure to low levels of lead could compromise a child’s intellectual performance and behavior, again, without evidence of lead poisoning.


There are currently no nesting peregrines on the North Yorkshire moors, why?

Six months later, Needleman received a call from a representative at the International Lead Zinc Research Organization, a nonprofit trade organization that conducts research on behalf of the lead and zinc industry, asking for his data. He declined. The attacks began soon after, starting with a Pediatrics paper criticizing Needleman’s 1979 study, followed by charges that the work was flawed in testimony before the EPA. After reviewing the charges and original work, the EPA confirmed Needleman’s findings. Then, in 1991, two psychologists who provided expert testimony on behalf of the tetraethyl lead industry accused Needleman of scientific misconduct. One of the psychologists, Claire Ernhart, had written the critical Pediatrics paper and testified against his study before the EPA. The attorney who filed the complaint with the NIH Office of Research Integrity worked for a firm with links to the Ethyl Corporation of America, the major manufacturer of tetraethyl lead. The University of Pittsburgh Medical School began a preliminary investigation of the charges, but denied Needleman’s request for open hearings. Needleman sought the support of the faculty assembly, which unanimously voted for open hearings, filed a complaint in federal court, and had the support of 400 independent scientists calling on the chancellor to open the hearings. The university acceded. After a 2-day hearing, and months of deliberation, the committee released a unanimous decision: there was no evidence of scientific misconduct. Thanks to Needleman’s pioneering efforts to reduce the hazards of lead, average blood lead levels of children in the United States dropped an estimated 78% from 1976 to 1991 ( Whether other defenders of public health will be spared a similar path may ultimately depend on stronger laws to safeguard scientific integrity—and public health—from the undue influence of industry.

Related Topics:

The Environmental and Ethical implications of Lead Shot contamination of rural lands in North America

Get the Lead Out: Wildlife Advocates File Suit to Replace Toxic Ammo with Safer Alternatives

Endangered California Condors Threatened by Lead Poisoning From Lead Ammunition

Three California Condors Die from Lead Poisoning

Lead Pollution and its affect on the Environment

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